Agriculture

Making Tastier Wines with Fewer Pesticides
July 30, 2015 09:00 AM - American Chemical Society

Wine-making is steeped in age-old traditions, but to address the threat of pests and concerns over heavy pesticide use, vintners are turning to science. With the goal of designing better grape breeds, scientists are parsing the differences between wild American grapes — which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant — and the less hardy grape species pressed for fine wines worldwide. They report their findings in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from US Corn Belt have been Underestimated
July 29, 2015 08:55 AM - University of Minnesota

Estimates of how much nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, is being emitted in the central United States have been too low by as much as 40 percent, a new study led by University of Minnesota scientists shows.

How Corn Became King
July 28, 2015 09:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.

Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found that just a single letter change in the genetic script of corn's ancestor, teosinte, helped make it all possible.

Publishing in the journal Genetics this month, UW-Madison genetics Professor John Doebley and a team of researchers describe how, during the domestication of corn, a single nucleotide change in the teosinte glume architectural gene (tga1) stripped away the hard, inedible casing of this wild grass, ultimately exposing the edible golden kernel.

California Farmers Switch to Less Thirsty Crops
July 28, 2015 08:56 AM - Lesley McClurg, NPR

Water scarcity is driving California farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable, less-thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The light-sensing molecules in plants came from ancient algae
July 28, 2015 06:40 AM - Duke University

The light-sensing molecules that tell plants whether to germinate, when to flower and which direction to grow were inherited millions of years ago from ancient algae, finds a new study from Duke University.

The findings are some of the strongest evidence yet refuting the prevailing idea that the ancestors of early plants got the red light sensors that helped them move from water to land by engulfing light-sensing bacteria, the researchers say.
 

New MIT study on the historical climate of the American West
July 27, 2015 06:56 AM - MIT News

All around the deserts of Utah, Nevada, southern Oregon, and eastern California, ancient shorelines line the hillsides above dry valley floors, like bathtub rings — remnants of the lakes once found throughout the region. Even as the ice sheets retreated at the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago, the region remained much wetter than it is today. The earliest settlers of the region are likely to have encountered a verdant landscape of springs and wetlands.

So just when and why did today’s desert West dry out?

California towns getting water by truck as drought continues and wells run dry
July 11, 2015 07:04 AM -

Rural Tulare County, Calif., is now being called the epicenter of this drought.

That's because at least 1,300 residential wells have run dry, affecting at least 7,000 people. When your taps start spitting out air here, Paul Boyer and his team are who you call.

Under a punishing midafternoon sun, Boyer helps muscle down five of these hefty 400-pound water tanks from a semi-truck flatbed. He helps run a local nonprofit that's in charge of distributing these 2,500-gallon water tanks to drought victims.

How rain can enhance food safety
July 6, 2015 10:09 AM - Cornell University

To protect consumers from foodborne illness, produce farmers should wait 24 hours after a rain or irrigating their fields to harvest crops, according to new research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Rain or irrigation creates soil conditions that are more hospitable to Listeria monocytogenes, which when ingested may cause the human illness Listeriosis. Waiting to harvest crops reduces the risk of exposure to the pathogen, which could land on fresh produce.

Can we grow plants in space?
July 2, 2015 06:23 AM - Purdue University

A Purdue University study shows that targeting plants with red and blue LEDs provides energy-efficient lighting in contained environments, a finding that could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration.

What California can learn for Israel on solving serious water shortages
June 29, 2015 06:13 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

California is still counting up the damage from the 2014 drought, which resulted in more than $200 million in losses in the dairy and livestock industry and a staggering $810 million in crop production. And analysts are predicting this year to be even worse.

But many will admit that if there is any country on earth that knows how to trump a three-year (and counting) drought cycle and convert a wasteland to oasis, it’s Israel. For thousands of years, populations have been wresting a livelihood from the desert of what is now Israel, refining the techniques that would one day result in an agricultural paradise.

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